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  • Jason Lucey

What Are You Doing!?!? A review of the Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2018-2019


Let me begin by saying I disagree with the title of this report. It should be "Marketers buy tools they don't know how to use then confidently proceed as usual".

This year's report is a doozy. And by doozy, I mean it reads like an indictment of marketing departments everywhere with real human consequences.

The Good News

Let's start with the good news: CMOs are feeling optimistic and 63% expect their budgets to increase in 2019. 57% of CEOs are looking to increase marketing investments too. That's great!

Everything Else

Now, let's get on to the meat of the report, and it's not pretty. Check out these quotes:

"Few modern companies, let alone modern CMOs, want to be considered the opposite of innovative...With such a large gap in capability, it’s no wonder CMOs are investing heavily in innovation initiatives" (p15-16)

"They’ve secured significant innovation budgets without the wherewithal to deliver programs that provide material value to the enterprise." (p16)

"CMOs have a strong focus on customer experience, but to what end?...CX strategies must be more than mere rhetoric; marketing investments must yield results." (p17)

"However, old habits die hard, and many CMOs still gravitate toward metrics that have less meaning outside the marketing organization." (p18)

"Logic dictates that common customer measures, such as customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer satisfaction (CSAT) and retention would be closely tracked on CMOs’ strategic dashboards. But only 51% of CMOs say they track customer acquisition costs; even fewer (43%) track customer retention or churn rates. Furthermore, brand metrics are used two times more frequently as KPIs than customer experience metrics." (p19)

"A marketing technology roadmap is essential." (p8)

"Marketing leaders risk siphoning off precious marketing investments for poorly defined projects with a loose scope and looser success criteria." (p16)


After the recent years of investment in technology, it seems that marketers forgot to follow one of the most important recommendations from last year--they never hired anyone who knows how to use the tools. This has resulted in a simple lack of data fluency in the marketing department. Consequently marketing managers are STILL saying they want to get analytics capabilities in place.

Last year Gartner advised:

"Appoint a marketing analytics leader within your team with the seniority and experience to maximize your analytics investment." (p. 11) read more

Buying fancy tools requires having people who know how to use them. There is a consequence to this delinquency. The report this year begins to recognize the fallout of marketing teams not heading this advice; it has some darker long term consequences.

"The interplay between increasing technology investments and decreasing labor costs seems like a natural progression — but could this be the turning point where automation starts to reduce human capital requirements?" (p7)

The answer that Gartner gives is...Maybe.

"The chances are that AI and technology are not putting your job at risk just yet." (p7) (emphasis mine)

The "just yet" part is the real story. The issue is that marketing has been investing in tools that they don't know how to use. Now they have these fancy tools but the utilization is low, data fluency is poor, they still can't report confidently on KPIs. AND there is a growing skill gap in the marketing department. That human skill gap is rapidly being filled by technology capability, and this trend is not going to change. It is only a matter of time before all marketing is programmatic and AI is making all the decisions. The humans involved will just be there to keep the machines running. Where's John Conner when you need him?

Let's hope for a better report next year.

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